Faculty union representatives present the Board of Regents with a petition, signed by more than 400 UA faculty, to ensure that UA faculty members, through shared governance, are central to decision-making regarding the future structure of the university. Photo by Monique Musick

System News February 2016

  • Message from University of Alaska Board of Regents Chair Jo Heckman
  • Strategic Pathways framework: Feature Topic at Board of Regents Meeting
  • Statewide Transformation Working Teams Met, Finalizing Their Reports
  • University of Alaska position paper: Concealed Carry on Campus
  • Strategic Pathways framework provides for extensive community engagement
  • Capitol Report Feb. 22, 2016
  • A Note on UA Budget Support vs. Partisan Politics

Message from University of Alaska Board of Regents Chair Jo Heckman

Dear UA Community,

My name is Jo Heckman.  I am a proud alumna of our great university and serve voluntarily as the chair of your university’s Board of Regents. At the regents meeting last week in Fairbanks, we had a large number of people provide excellent testimony on a number of topics – more than 70 people provided their thoughts, concerns and suggestions.

Regents are grateful for this outpouring from those who take time out of their busy lives to come talk to us. Such engagement illustrates that people care, are passionate about our university and have the best interests of this university at heart. I am deeply appreciative to all of you who came, whether from the UA community or community at large. We are fortunate to count you as our friends and supporters, and I thank you all.

Now, I ask you to join hands together and take our message to the elected officials in Juneau. They need to hear from us all, not just the President, not just from the Regents, or the staff but from each and every one of you. After all, we are all in this together.  MORE....

Strategic Pathways Website

Information, progress, core principles, draft framework, timeline and a link to a feedback form are available at: http://www.alaska.edu/pathways/

Strategic Pathways framework: Feature Topic at Board of Regents Meeting

“Strategic Pathways,” the proposed concept for realigning resources within the University of Alaska system, infused just about every part of the Board of Regents meeting Feb. 18-19 in Fairbanks, from the system governance report to public testimony, financial discussions, fundraising reports, and the update on the state legislature and the FY17 budget.

President Jim Johnsen emphasized that the framework provides the jumping off point for many future meetings and discussions with university staff, faculty, students and the community at large. “It is not a done deal,” he said, “it is just the beginning of a process that will take months and years to implement.”

The proposed framework would allow the university to manage budget reductions while still investing in programs of quality and excellence by realigning resources to a “lead campus” model where each of the main campuses have shared programs in addition to unique programs, research, general education, liberal arts and workforce training programs in accordance with regional needs and the unique strengths of each university.

“We’re not going to cut ourselves down into mediocrity,” Johnsen said. ”This plan communicates to the legislature that we aren’t just trying to survive another day. It is not just defense. It is a plan for the next 3-5 years reassuring them that the university is something they can invest in.”  MORE....

Statewide Transformation Working Teams Met, Finalizing Their Reports

The six teams commissioned to advance the Statewide Transformation Team’s recommendations held additional working sessions on January 28 and January 29.

The teams considered a variety of recommendations to incorporate into their final reports. The teams continued to work over the next few weeks to further refine their recommendations and to define and develop suggested approaches for implementing their recommendations.

The final draft recommendations will be shared with the Statewide staff, the Summit Team and Statewide Leadership by the beginning of March.

University of Alaska position paper: Concealed Carry on Campus

The linked document describes the University of Alaska position on SB174 Concealed Carry on Campus. READ

The University of Alaska does not support SB 174 because it eliminates UA's ability to effectively manage student and employee conflicts and safety issues where concealed weapons are involved.

The UA Position Paper lists five main areas where amendment to permit regulation in highly sensitive situations would address a number of concerns.

In addition to addressing these critical areas, the UA believes that requiring a person to obtain a concealed carry permit also makes sense in the university environment.

Strategic Pathways framework provides for extensive community engagement

A Message From President Johnsen

Much interest and concern has been expressed regarding implementation of Strategic Pathways. As stated in my message broadly distributed Feb. 16, the Board of Regents is not making any decisions at this meeting regarding implementation of Strategic Pathways.

At this point Strategic Pathways is a conceptual framework to guide much needed review of the university's structure and programs. A more detailed version of that framework has been posted to the web. I am committed to broad engagement with staff, faculty, students, and governance as part of that framework. This engagement effort is set to begin later this month and continue through the entire multi-year process.

Strategic Pathways is a process that must be undertaken thoughtfully but boldly to address the serious challenges the university and the state have no choice but to face.

Capitol Report Feb. 22, 2016

by Associate Vice President for State Relations Chris Christensen

Today is the 35th day of the legislative session. Technically we have completed a little more than one-third of the session, although some years the 90-day statutory deadline is difficult to achieve.  Recall that last year, the legislature spent 143 days in regular and special session before a budget deal was finally reached.

As previously reported, the legislature is considering unprecedented cuts in the state operating budget for FY17. The steep decline in oil prices over the last year, coupled with the long-term reduction in oil production, has pushed the estimated deficit for the current fiscal year (FY16) to $3.8 billion. The deficit in FY17 may be just as large if circumstances do not change dramatically, and so far there is no sign that they will do so. Continuing deficits of this magnitude will drain the state’s savings accounts in three or four years.

Governor Walker submitted an FY17 budget plan to the legislature that proposed cutting $100 million from this year’s funding level. However, key legislators in both the House and the Senate have said that a cut of $500 million is actually needed, and it appears that they are working to achieve that goal.

The House UA Budget Subcommittee chaired by Representative Tammie Wilson has met seven times to consider the university’s operating budget. This subcommittee is doing the detailed budget review work and will make a recommendation to the full House Finance Committee. Last Thursday, Representative Wilson revealed her proposal to the other subcommittee members. It was stunning, both for the amount of the cut and for what the chair proposes to not fund.

The university received $350.8 million in unrestricted general funds from the legislature for FY16. The governor proposed giving the university $335.0 million for FY17, a net reduction of $15.8 million (4.5 percent). Representative Wilson has suggested that the appropriation should be $288 million, a net cut of $62.8 million (17.9 percent) from the university’s current budget. We have not yet completed a detailed analysis, but reducing the university’s base budget from $350.8 million to $288 million would most likely result in a job loss of 600 to 1000 positions system wide.

Moreover, Representative Wilson said her proposal was intended to only fund student instruction; there would be no state funding for research or public service. If the university wanted to conduct research or do other things, Wilson said it would have to find other funding. There is also intent language pending, proposed by another subcommittee member, that would direct the university to not use state funds to support athletics.  MORE...

Stay Informed During the Legislative Session

The Alaska legislature is considering unprecedented cuts in the state operating budget for FY17. Both the House and the Senate are working fast on the budget and other legislation affecting the UA community. The best way to stay up to date on the latest news, upcoming opportunities to testify to legislative committees and other opportunities for advocacy is to subscribe to the SupportUA Listserve to receive the Capitol Report and other important updates on the university’s budget and other legislative matters.

To subscribe to this listserve, please click here!

A Note on UA Budget Support vs. Partisan Politics

There have been some questions about advocating for university funding using university equipment or time. We suggest that when contacting legislators regarding issues such as the budget you avoid using university email or other resources, and that you do so on your own time, such as lunch time or after work. The university's budget is not a partisan political issue or a ballot measure -- those issues are subject to very strict prohibitions or restrictions on use of state resources. However, your advocacy will have the greatest effect if it does not raise use of resource issues.

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